'Golden Girls' ' Rue McClanahan Suffered 'Debilitating Illness' Before Death: Forensic Pathologist

Rue McClanahan died June 3, 2010, after suffering a "massive stroke"

Celebrating Bea Arthur
Photo: Will Ragozzino/Getty

Nearly nine years after her death, details about Rue McClanahan's final days are coming to light.

This Sunday, the Reelz docuseries, Autopsy: Rue McClanahan, investigates The Golden Girls star's autopsy, which was performed almost a decade ago, following her death at age 76.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Hunter will examine McClanahan's medical records to determine why she suffered a stroke while in New York Presbyterian Hospital.

"Rue McClanahan's cause of death was reported as a stroke, which is most commonly caused by a blood clot to the brain," Dr. Hunter says in a teaser. "Mysteriously, however, Rue was taking a powerful anticoagulant medication specifically designed to prevent blood clots."

According to the outlet, McClanahan's autopsy revealed that the star was taking medications to control anxiety and panic attacks.

"Anxiety can cause dramatic spikes in blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause blood clotting, so could this have increased Rue's chances of having a stroke?" he questions.

"So far I've discovered that Rue had undergone knee surgery, which carries with it a risk of clotting. But, she came out of the surgery without complications. From reports, she was working hard in the months before her death and appeared to be fit and well," Dr. Hunter says in Radar Online's teaser of the episode.

"However, the chance of having a stroke increases with age and affects women more than men," he continues, "and I can see from reports that Rue may have been even more susceptible to a stroke as a result of a debilitating illness that overshadowed her whole life."

McClanahan starred on The Golden Girls as beloved Blanche Devereaux from 1985–92.

The cast of 'The Golden Girls'. ABC/Getty

"But behind the smiles, Rue's life was blighted by heartbreak, disease and near-death experiences. Her cause of death was reported as a stroke, which is most commonly caused by a blood clot to the brain. Mysteriously, however, Rue was taking the drug Warfarin, which is a powerful anticoagulant medication specifically designed to prevent blood clotting," the Reelz episode's description claims.

"So why did the actress die of a stroke at the age of 76? World-renowned Forensic Pathologist, Dr. Michael Hunter needs to analyze every detail of the limited information available to piece together the answer," it continues.

On June 3, 2010, McClanahan "passed away at 1 a.m.," her manager, Barbara Lawrence, told PEOPLE. "She had a massive stroke."

Bea Arthur (left) and Rue McClanahan. CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

She had suffered a minor stroke earlier that year while recovering from bypass surgery. Lawrence added that at the time of her death, McClanahan "had her family with her. She went in peace."

Golden Girls put her on the map and led to fame, fortune — and several husbands. In all, she had six, including actor Morrow Wilson, whom she wed in 1997 and who survives her, as does a son, Mark Bish, from her first marriage.

Autopsy: Rue McClanahan airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on Reelz.

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